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 In Current Events, Data Resources for Nonprofits, Experts

Earlier this summer, I published a series of blog posts on immigration and migration. I talked about how we can use data to help already marginalized populations. Since that series ran, our inboxes have been flooded with feedback and suggestions from you, our wonderful readers.

But information is always better when it’s shared. So this post is going to highlight just a few of the refugee data issues you raised. (And the solutions you offered.) The more we work together on using data to help refugees, the bigger the impact we can make.


Refugee Data Issues: Connectivity

In the western world, we tend to view our mobile phones as a luxury. (Not a luxury many of us would go without, mind you.) But for people forced to flee their homes, often to an unfamiliar country or culture, mobile phones are a lifeline.

“Refugees connect to Google Maps to navigate land routes, Facebook to find missing loved ones, Western Union to transfer money, and use Vodafone SIM cards to call rescue officials from sinking boats.”

~Mark Latonero

A team at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and the Data & Society Research Institute have published this report on mobile phone use among Syrian refugees in Greece. The study looks at data on mobile phone use. Who is using phones? What the effects and concerns? Which refugee data issues are related to mobile phone use? Who will migrant populations trust with their personal data? How can we leverage that data to better support these people?


Refugee Data Issues: Communication

Telling immigration stories is critical to raising awareness and garnering support for people driven from their homes by politics, violence, war, or natural disaster. But data on these groups can be difficult to access and even harder to decipher.

Chloe Reichel at Journalist’s Resource has put together a brilliant new guide on writing stories about refugees and immigration. While she designed her guide for journalists writing about refugee data issues, it is definitely a valuable asset for policy-makers and nonprofits as well. In addition to a fairly comprehensive list on journalist do’s and don’ts, she’s also amassed some great data resources on immigration, like this publicly shared spreadsheet on immigration data resources.


Refugee Data Issues: Consent

If you work with data in the social sector, you know the importance of consent. Using someone’s sensitive personal data without their permission is a huge no-no. It can, at minimum, undermine trust and hamper your efforts to help marginalized groups. At worst, it can put lives in danger. (Especially among populations targeted because of their ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.)

“Consent is not consent unless it is freely given. By definition, if people’s access to essential services and to human security is dependent on allowing collection of their data, they are not giving consent.”

~Linnet Taylor, assistant professor in data ethics, law and policy

So what do you do when faced with the choice of obtaining consent or saving a life? Discussions at this year’s Data for Development Festival suggest that the mere state of being a refugee does not preclude any person’s right to data privacy. Lisa Cornish explores ways to reduce the risk of refugee data issues in her piece, Is data consent in humanitarian contexts too much to ask?


Are You Facing Refugee Data Issues?

At Datassist, we are proud to work with organizations of all shapes and sizes to help support programs for immigrants and refugees. If you’re struggling to find, analyze, or communicate data on an immigration program, we’re here to help. Reach out now to discuss your project and your needs.


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